Where I Was
Shipwreck Grill, Brielle, NJ
Tuesday, August 14, 6:37 p.m.
Where I Sat
When I walked in, the bar was packed! I took a seat almost directly inside the entrance. It was too late when I realized I was going to be dealing with everyone passing from bar to dining room proper, and that was not going to work. I got up and headed to the ladies room. When I returned, much to my delight, bar seats were clearing at a rapid pace. I walked to the front of the building, closest to the water (beyond the massive parking lot) and took a seat at the short side of the bar. I had a full view into the entire space. Then, just as my drink was set in front of me, I moved for the last time: all the way to my favorite seat, right at the corner of the bar. Now I was facing the door with a full view of kitchen window, bartenders, and guests coming and going. Third time’s a charm!
Who Served Me
More than one bartender was working the very active bar. First, it was Liam, who recommended his favorite cocktail, the Ginger Drop. Steve took our order, and served our supper, yet every time we needed a refill, Liam seemingly magically appeared and was somehow able to shake a cocktail vigorously while making my date another Stoli and soda.
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
Some bartenders seem to truly love the menu, know it well and speak from the heart when I ask this question. Some sell it a little more. Liam fell into that second category—he did a great job pointing out lots of good choices between the regular and small plates menu available at the bar and high tops.
When Liam asked “which menu” in response to my query and I reiterated that this was about “his” favorite bite. He said, “On this menu I like the tuna tartare…” and then also told me about five others dishes he liked.
The Vibe & My Vantage Point
Lively—hopping, fun, but not overbearing or too loud. Lots of movement. The tables on the outside deck were well filled for a Tuesday night and inside was popping. Hardly a seat remained but once I settled into the corner spot, I loved watching the two doors to the outdoor seating area open and close with the active wait and bus staff bustling about. The action by the kitchen window is always fun. I love the wine case divider that separates the bar from the dining room and the touch of an antique glass case that sits between the mens/womens rooms. The round mermaid-inspired, stained-glass window that sat atop the front side of the bar almost went unnoticed until the light started to dim; it illuminated the space and brought with it a very cool vibe indeed.
What Quenched My Thirst
The Ginger Drop, $12 (seasonal)
Ginger Belvedere, Domaine de Canton, fresh lemon juice, rosemary, candied ginger
Holy yum! Strong, spicy, sweet, tart, icy. This was a really unusual drink, albeit it a little sweet for what I typically like. Apparently my concern for its sugary essence didn’t override my need for a second. It reminded me of Christmas cookies I make, with candied ginger. The cocktail is pretty, inventive, tasty, and made with a significantly heavy hand. Cheers!
What Fed My Soul
Since I started this column a few months ago, I have only been this impressed with the overall experience one or two other times. Each and every dish had something spectacular about it: something remarkable. Something memorable, which is my favorite quality of all. Something worth coming back for—and Shipwreck has several return-worthy dishes.
Warning: a feeding frenzy ensued as I had my husband by my side, which certainly doubles the pleasure. While he indulged at the raw bar, I chose not to include it as I wasn’t into eating oysters for a rare change (and I didn’t like the way he dressed them).
Japanese dipping sauce
This is pretty much my Japanese food fantasy, and a far better idea than tempura ice cream! Something about the super-light coating covering the chewy seaweed created a great feel with the first bite. The stickiness of the sushi rice only enhanced the feeling inside my mouth as the flavors of exploded—wasabi, gorgeously supple tuna and the done-right chewy sushi rice. The dipping sauce was a heavy sesame-soy combo adding extra crunch and an earthiness that balanced the other flavors infused in each bite. I could have eaten a second order.
Prosciutto, romesco, artichoke, cured olives, eggplant garlic crostini, balsamic vinegar
I have so much to say, but I’m trying to employ the less-is-more approach. I actually recommend you stop reading this now and get straight over to Shipwreck to experience this amazingness yourself. It’s. That. Good.
Listen, I’m with some of you, burrata is burrata is burrata. However, it’s always the accoutrements of the plate that send me in one direction or another. It’s what drives my entree choice 90% of the time. This was no different.
I cut into the burrata and made sure to slice the prosciutto into even strips so that each delicious bite could include a tiny taste of each ingredient. The rich romesco rested at the bottom of the pile of beautifully arranged fresh veggies. The unlisted ingredients included lovely grape tomatoes and the chunks of marinated artichoke were cubed into tiny little morsels of delectable goodness. The balsamic was no ordinary vinegar—it was a glaze for sure and has either a fig or blackberry essence to it. It didn’t seem like run-of-the-mill glaze at all. The few leaves of arugula, dropped around the plate, added another layer of complexity along with the briny olives. It’s the kind of dish that reminds us that real chefs are scientists: they gently balance taste with structure, textures with temperature. And true art was also expressed in this special dish.
George’s Shrimp, $15 (bar menu only)
Feta cheese, olives, tomato, garlic, hot peppers, thyme, red onion, olive oil, lemon
Being married to a Greek guy, I’ve had a lot of Greek-inspired dishes in my day. I’ve learned to cook legs of lamb on the grill (and no, we do not use Windex to cure all ailments). However, this dish had a special addition that that made my inner Italian girl smile with delight: nice, hot, fresh green peppers—I couldn’t tell if it was a fresh jalapeño but that’s my best guess. The feta was super light and not overly salty, allowing the taste of the fresh shrimp to shine through the lightly cooked red onion and tomatoes. Super fresh, clean, and totally delicious. My only complaint? The dish could have used one more shrimp or a bed of orzo underneath to give it a little more weight. Otherwise it really worked.
Petite Surf & Turf, $24 (bar menu only)
Grilled 5oz filet mignon and basil butter poached lobster tail with French fries
I have finally grown up! I actually got super psyched when I saw this on the bar menu! An insane price and the description was simple and drew us right in. SOLD! The elegant presentation of the filet and tail atop the buttery and lightly green basil butter (outstanding!) absolutely worked. The fries and the meat were perfectly prepared. The lobster tail, fresh water, was tender and sweet and the ideal complement to the filet. Absolutely insane. Run, don’t walk.
Beyond the Bar
Shipwreck is a fabulous spot that’s standing the test of time. My first visit was at least 15 years ago and it’s been consistently fantastic ever since. The restaurant boasts a fantastic raw bar and has a bar menu that rivals none. Generous, varied, and filled with delights. Weekday happy hours start at opening and last a couple of hours. Ask about their specials—sometimes the bar is so busy they may forget to mention them. (The special on this visit was a veal chop, which, even though I don’t eat it, I wanted to try it!)
Tuesday through Thursday, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Friday, 5:00 p.m. to close
Saturday, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
When to Show
Monday through Thursday, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday, 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Know Before You Go!
Prices, hours, and menus are subject to change. Please check the restaurant’s website for the latest information available.
720 Ashley Ave.
This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.